Two former members, Iowa FIJI sued over alleged 2020 sexual assault

Two former members of Iowa’s Phi Gamma Delta Chapter have been named in a lawsuit seeking damages for an alleged sexual assault in September 2020.


Jerod Ringwald

Protesters wave signs in the street in front of the President’s Residence during the second night of protests following sexual assault allegations against the University of Iowa’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

Caleb McCullough, Executive Editor

Editor’s note: This article contains references to and descriptions of sexual assault.

A woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted at the Iowa Phi Gamma Delta house in September of 2020 is suing the fraternity and two former members, as well as the national Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation over the incident. 

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Johnson County District Court alleges that Makéna Solberg, a University of Iowa student, was sexually assaulted by two members of the fraternity while attending a party at the FIJI house at 303 Ellis Ave. in Iowa City on Sept. 4-5. 

The Daily Iowan received permission from Solberg to use her name in its reporting.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for damages and punitive damages toward the defendants. The damages listed in the filings include: 

  • Past mental and physical pain and suffering; Future mental and physical pain and suffering; Past full loss of mind and body;
  • Future loss of full mind and body;
  • Loss of future earning capacity; Loss of earnings;
  • Past and future medical expenses

Court documents provide more details about the alleged assault that sparked nights of protest on the University of Iowa campus against the fraternity. As the DI previously reported, police received a complaint of a sexual assault from Solberg in September of 2020 and executed multiple search warrants against the fraternity and the two accused men.

The documents allege that the two men accused in the lawsuit planned to lead Solberg into one of their rooms. When Solberg complained of feeling sick, the documents say, one of the men offered her water and led her to his room.

The documents then say the men engaged in sexual activity with Solberg without her consent, and say the alleged assault happened “while she was in an intoxicated, physically impaired, and physically vulnerable” and that the two men “were aware or should have been aware.”

While the alleged assault was going on, the documents say the men recorded the incident without Solberg’s consent. The documents say that the two men caused video and photographs of the alleged assault to be shared among members of the fraternity.

Other members of Iowa FIJI, including officers, told members to delete the material and not to report the incident, the documents say. Search warrants from 2020 say police investigating the matter found a GroupMe message from someone identified as “possibly the fraternity President” to another member of the fraternity advising members who received the images to delete them. 

The lawsuit was filed by Solberg’s lawyer, Eashaan Vajpeyi.

Beyond the two men in the fraternity, the lawsuit also names the Mu Deuteron Association of Phi Gamma Delta, which is the formal name for the Iowa FIJI chapter, and the Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation, Inc., an arm of the national Phi Gamma Delta organization as defendants. 

Court documents say the two organizations failed to supervise their members and protect guests during an official function at the fraternity house. 

The documents further say members of the fraternity “aided and abetted” the two men accused of assault by sharing the photos and “directing their deletion to hide the acts, and instructing solidarity in silence to its members which intended to, and have in fact, frustrated investigation into the sexual assault.”

Iowa City Public Safety Information Officer Lee Hermiston said a criminal investigation into the alleged incident “remains open and active.”

Petition sparked protests a year after alleged assault

After a petition circulated in August of this year detailing the assault allegations, several nights of protest broke out in Iowa City calling for the removal of the Iowa chapter of Phi Gamma Delta. Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the fraternity house, some breaking down the door and breaking windows. 

The demonstrations followed similar protests at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after multiple allegations of sexual assault tied to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity there. The university suspended the fraternity at UNL in August.

In September, the University of Iowa’s Interfraternity Council President Will Hochman wrote in a statement the two members at Iowa’s chapter had been removed from the fraternity in September of 2020. 

“Sexual assault or harassment is not something that the University nor the Interfraternity Council takes lightly, as it is unacceptable and must be eradicated from our campus,” Hochman wrote in the statement. “On September 13th, 2020, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) removed two members from their chapter related to the incident.”

The Johnson County Attorney’s Office and Iowa City Police Department released a joint statement on Sept. 1 asking for information about the allegations. 

“The Department has previously and will continue to work closely with the Johnson County Attorney’s Office on this case. We have and will continue to take allegations of sexual assault seriously and will investigate them to the fullest extent,” the statement said.

Resources for victims of sexual assault